The legal battle between a group of Tim Hortons franchisees and their parent company escalated Friday as the corporate-unsanctioned franchisee association filed a lawsuit alleging that Restaurant Brands International, its subsidiary and several executives have subverted their right to associate.

The defendants have engaged in conduct that "seeks to interfere with, restrict, penalize, or threaten franchisees from exercising their rights to associate," according to a lawsuit filed in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of two franchisees who belong to The Great White North Franchisee Association. None of the claims have been proven in court.

​Tim Hortons called the lawsuit "unfounded," in a statement by its media relations team.

"We have always been clear that we will not interfere with our franchisees' right to associate and that remains true today," it read, adding the lawsuit is the latest tactic of the group's disregard for the brand and our restaurant owners."

The GWNFA, which incorporated in March to raise franchisee concerns over the management of the brand, alleges the defendants stymied their group in a number of ways.

The statement of claim alleges part of this pattern includes the commencing of legal action late last month by the defendants against a group of GWNFA board members that RBI alleges provided confidential information that was then leaked to a Canadian newspaper. The GWNFA denies this claim.

The claim also alleges the defendants denied future store opportunities to franchisees because they are "not aligned" with Tim Hortons's interest and set aside a $2 billion fund to buy out franchisees who have joined the GWNFA or may do so in the future.